January 20, 1966: The Working Class Is Completely Capable Of Being The Masters Of Science And Culture

Cai Zuquan in a Fudan workshop

The January 20th ran an article written by Cai Zuquan, a party member and experimental glass worker at Fudan university. The editorial board gave a quick abstract to Cai’s article which is translated below:

“Comrade Cai Zuquan was born in a poverty stricken household. at the age of 14 he moved to Shanghai to be an apprentice at a pharmacy, he worked for nine years before liberation. in 1952 he went to Fudan university to be a glass machinist. For the pasty many years, under the party’s cultivation, he has grown from being a common worker with only three years of primary education into a specialist in electric lighting. Now he is a committee member on Fudan’s Party Committee, the director of lighting laboratory, and the party branch secretary. Under the leadership of the party, comrade Cai Zuquan has followed the path of working class knowledge. The party branch raised him up to a position of leadership, he still maintains natural qualities of the working class, and often participates in manual labor. While he is taking part in campaigns, he combines manual and physical labor, he establishes and dares to struggle, dares to eliminate superstition, dares to bring about innovation, dares to climb to the peaks of scientific learning. On the higher education battlefront he is a soldier in the third revolutionary movement. “

At play at the time:

The question of how to create and maintain a genuinely working class led revolutionary party and movement vexed the Chinese Communist movement. This was especially difficult in scientific, cultural, and engineering fields, where many of the workers and technicians did not come from working class backgrounds, but instead from petit-bourgeois, bourgeois, or landlord class backgrounds. In some cases, such as the case of Cai who was celebrated in the paper, ordinary workers rose to prominent in the party and in work places. However once an ordinary worker rose through the party and gained special privileges would they lose their working class consciousness and become revisionist?

January 18, 1966: The P.L.A. puts Mao Tse-tung’s thought in command of everything.

On January 18, 1966, the People’s Daily ran a report from the People’s Liberation Army Conference on Political Work. The report was translated and reprinted three days later in the English language organ of the Chinese Communist Party, The Peking Review.

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P.L.A. Conference on Political Work
The P.L.A. puts Mao Tse-tung’s thought in command of everything.
It stands ready at any time to smash U.S. imperialist aggression.

[This unsigned article is reprinted from Peking Review, #4, Jan. 21, 1966, pp. 5-6.]

THE General Political Department of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army concluded its conference on political work in the army on January 18 in Peking.

During its twenty days of meetings the conference made a serious study of the important instructions given by the Central Committee of the Communist Party and Chairman Mao Tse-tung on building up the army and on its political work; there were discussions on implementation of the five-point principle1 advanced by Comrade Lin Piao to keep on putting politics first; the experience gained in political work in the past two years was summed up and arrangements for political work in 1966 were decided upon.

The conference called on all commanders and fighters of the P.L.A. to rally closely around the Central Committee of the Party and Chairman Mao Tse-tung, to hold still higher the great red banner of Mao Tse-tung’s thought, to continue to put politics first and resolutely apply the five-point principle in this connection, and to heighten combat-readiness and be prepared at all times to smash U.S. imperialist aggression.

All those attending the conference were received by the Party and state leaders Chou En-lai, Chu Teh, Teng Hsiao-ping and Peng Chen. Comrades Chou En-lai, Teng Hsiao-ping and Peng Chen gave important reports at the conference on the present domestic and international situation and present tasks.

Hsiao Hua, Director of the P.L.A. General Political Department, presided over the conference and delivered a report on the implementation of the five-point principle of putting politics first. Yang Cheng-wu, Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the P.L.A., spoke at the conference.

The conference agreed that there was a new mass upsurge in the creative study and application of Mao Tse-tung’s works throughout the army since Comrade Lin Piao’s instructions on putting politics first were implemented. It was noted that the broad masses of cadres and fighters showed a deeper class feeling towards Mao Tse-tung’s thinking and greater political consciousness in remoulding their ideology and directing their activities in accordance with the guidance given by Chairman Mao Tse-tung. Great numbers of fine people like Lei Feng and Wang Chieh had come forward, and they had good deeds to their credit. There were new developments in the campaign to produce outstanding companies. There were remarkable achievements in fighting, training and the fulfilment of various other tasks.

The consensus at the conference was that the principle of putting politics first formulated by Comrade Lin Piao conforms with what Chairman Mao Tse-tung has always taught us; it was put forward in accordance with the historical experience of the Chinese people’s armed forces and the present situation, in accordance with the laws of development and the economic basis of socialist society, and with the fact that classes and class struggle still exist in socialist society. This principle is the foundation on which to strengthen the revolutionization and modernization of the army, to make good preparations for the smashing of the U.S. imperialist war of aggression and to combat and prevent the rise of modern revisionism, and ensure that the army never degenerates. Comrade Lin Piao’s five-point principle which calls for putting politics first not only serves as the general principle and task for all army work in 1966 but is the guiding policy in army building for all the years to come.

“Putting politics first” means putting Mao Tse-tung’s thinking first, said the conference. It means regarding Chairman Mao Tse-tung’s works as the highest instructions on all aspects of the work of the whole army, and putting Mao Tse-tung’s thinking in command of everything. Chairman Mao Tse-tung’s instructions are the criterion for all work. All his instructions must be resolutely supported and carried out, even if their accomplishment involves “climbing a mountain of swords and crossing an ocean of flames.” Whatever runs counter to his instructions must be rejected and firmly opposed.

The conference called for the creative study and application of Chairman Mao Tse-tung’s works and, in particular, for the utmost effort in applying them. Whether Mao Tse-tung’s thinking has been really mastered must be judged above all by its application after study. In assessing anyone, hear what he says and see what he does, with emphasis, on the latter. It is incumbent not only on the soldiers and cadres at grass-root levels, but even more on the senior cadres, to read Chairman Mao Tse-tung’s works, follow his teachings, act in accordance with his instructions and be a good soldier of Chairman Mao Tse-tung. One must make the study of Chairman Mao’s works and the remoulding of one’s ideology a life-time endeavour if one is to devote one’s life to the revolution.

The conference decided that in order to put politics first and resolutely carry out the five-point principle, the whole army must hold still higher,the great red banner of Mao Tse-tung’s thought, and stimulate a new upsurge in the creative study and application of Mao Tse-tung’s works on an even wider scale and in still greater depth.

Consistent adherence to the mass line and the continued practice of democracy in political, military and economic affairs were stressed at the conference. The instructions of Chairman Mao Tse-tung, the principles and policies of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and the directives issued by the Party’s Military Commission and Comrade Lin Piao must be made known directly to the broad masses of cadres and fighters and translated into the conscious action of the masses.

It was important to encourage all cadres and fighters to do political and ideological work, including the political, military and other cadres, declared the conference. Ideological work must penetrate the heart and mind of every fighter. Army units should do their administrative and educational work by means of political work and by the method of persuasion and education.

The conference stressed that the decisive factor in putting politics first was Party leadership. The Principle that military affairs should be run by the whole Party must be adhered to. The system of dual leadership by the military command and the local Party committee under the unified leadership of the Party’s Central Committee must be resolutely enforced. The army must come under the absolute leadership of the Party and the supervision of the masses in order to ensure that the line, principles and policies of the Party are resolutely implemented in the army.

The conference pointed out that Chairman Mao Tse-tung’s ideas on Party building must be follewed in order to strengthen the work of building the Party organization in the army, and strengthen collective leadership by the Party committees. Democratic centralism must be adhered to and there must be a vigorous inner-Party life, criticism and self-criticism, and democracy, so that military work will be done well by concerted efforts.

The conference particularly emphasized that it was necessary to keep firmly in mind Chairman Mao Tse-tung’s teaching that “modesty makes one progress, whereas conceit makes one lag behind” and be modest, prudent, and honest in word and deed at all times.

The conference called on all members of the army to sharpen their vigilance a hundred-fold and work earnestly to increase their combat-readiness.

It noted that U.S. imperialism was now shifting the focus of its strategy to Asia. It was frenziedly enlarging its war of aggression in Vietnam and directing the spearhead of its aggression against China. At the same time the modern revisionists were working even more shamelessly in the service of U.S. imperialism, thereby aggravating the danger of war.

The conference declared: “All members of the army must know that the root cause of war will remain until imperialism is overthrown and capitalism is eliminated. U.S. imperialism has obstinately set itself against the Chinese people, and against the people of all countries. It has always wanted to impose war on the Chinese people and have a contest of strength with us. Therefore, to increase our combat-readiness is not a temporary measure but a long-term strategic task.

“We will not only defend our motherland and be ready at any moment to smash aggression by U.S. imperialism. We will also resolutely support and help the people of other countries in their struggle against U.S. imperialism. This is our bounden internationalist duty.

“We must make full preparations against the war of aggression which U.S. imperialism may launch at an early date, on a large scale, with nuclear or other weapons, and on several fronts. All our work must be put on a footing of readiness to fight.”

In conclusion the conference declared: “We are convinced that we will be invincible provided we put politics first, maintain an atmosphere of keen study of Mao Tse-tung’s thought and foster a high level of proletarian consciousness, high morale, solid unity and deep hatred for the enemy, and a spirit of revolutionary heroism, the spirit of daring to make revolution and daring to struggle, fearing neither war nor sacrifice.”

Should U.S. imperialism dare to attack China, “our army, like a steel hammer, will crush anything it hits. Armed with the thinking of Mao Tse-tung, closely linked with the people throughout the country, and closely linked with the people throughout the world, we shall be more than a match for such a thing as U.S. imperialism, and final victory will certainly be ours.”


[1] Comrade Lin Piao’s five-point principle guiding the work of the P.L.A. in 1966 is: 1) creatively study and apply Chairman Mao’s works and, in particular, make the utmost effort to apply them; regard Chairman Mao’s works as the highest instructions on all aspects of the work of the army; 2) persist in giving first place to man as between man and weapons, in giving first place to political work as between political and other work, in giving first place to ideological work as between ideological and routine tasks in political work, and, in ideological work, in giving first place to living ideas as between ideas in books and living ideas. And, in particular, make the greatest effort to grasp living ideas; 3) leading cadres must go to the basic units and give energetic leadership in the campaign to produce outstanding companies and ensure that the basic units do their work effectively, and, at the same time, that a good style of leadership by the cadres is fostered; 4) boldly promote really good commanders and fighters to key posts of responsibility; 5) train hard and master the finest techniques and close-range and night fighting tactics. —Ed.

(From https://www.marxists.org/subject/china/peking-review/1966/PR1966-04a.htm)

At Play at the Time

Lin Biao, Mao’s right hand man, was consolidating power within the People’s Liberation Army, and preparing for the launch of the Cultural Revolution. At the time Lin was in the midst of a power struggle within the PLA with the high ranking General and member of the Secretariat Luo Ruiqing. Luo was opposed to political training in the army the theory of putting politics in command, and was seen by Lin and Mao as a revisionist and a threat to their power within the CCP and the PLA. This report and the theme of the conference makes clear that the main objective of the PLA was to put politics in command of all other work. The issue of United States aggression in Vietnam, and the intensifying war there are pushed towards the bottom of the article and marginalized. The emphasis on politics over Vietnam heightens the idea that the primary contradiction in the PRC was an internal political contradiction, not the external contradiction between Chinese revolution and western imperialism. Later in the CR the army became a main pillar for the party’s left, a role which often was structurally problematic in respect to the task of expanding the mass movement.

On Mao’s thoughts about Lin Biao, see:

“The center is asking my permission to publish the speech given by my friend [Lin Biao], and I shall agree…. I have doubts about some of his views. I have never believed that my little red book contained so much spiritual power. When he praises it to heaven, the whole country will do the same. It is all exaggerated…. (I have been pushed by them onto Mount Liang [among the rebels]), and I cannot refuse my consent. To be forced to give it against my convictions is something that has never happened to me in all my life…. I feel sure of myself, yet I have doubts…. At the Hangzhou conference last April, I said that I did not approve of the formulas my friend uses, but my words had no effect…. They have used even worse expressions, they have exalted me to the heavens as the miracle of miracles…. I have become the Zhong Kui [a terrifying mythological character] of the XX century Communist party…. I’ll break my bones in the fall…. If they have already demolished Marx and Lenin, why not us, too—and with more reason? You should think about this and not let victory go to your head…. Our task today is to knock out some of the rightist elements in the Party and in the country (to knock all of them out would be impossible); in seven or eight years we could launch a new campaign…. When can these lines be published?…. Perhaps the moment will be after my death, when the Right will have appropriated the power…. The Right will exploit my words to raise the black banner, but without much luck. Since the Chinese empire was overthrown in 1911, the reaction has never been able to hold power for long. The Left, however, will use my words toward organizing itself, and the Right will be overthrown…”

—Mao, in a letter to his wife Jiang Qing, July 8, 1966. From Edoarda Masi, China Winter: Workers, Mandarins, and the Purge of the Gang of Four (NY: 1982), p. 19. Originally from an English translation of the letter in Issues and Studies, January 1973, pp. 94-96, and in the Yearbook of Chinese Communism, 1973, pp. 2-3, cited in Dictionary of Revolutionary Marxism


January 16, 1966: Philosophers, take up your backpacks.

Turn philosophy into a sharp weapon in the hands of the masses, February, 1971

The January 16 1966 issue of the People’s Daily ran an editorial entitled “Philosophers, take up your backpack, go amongst the worker peasant soldier masses.”

This editorial is an open ended critique of academic philosophers, it does not feature the name of a specific target. It criticizes the tendency of intellectual philosophers to produce philosophical texts that cannot be grasped the by masses of workers peasants and soldiers. In the PRC the working masses, using their experience combining living and learning Mao Zedong Thought, have been able to break the intellectual monopoly on philosophical work and produce Marxist philosophical texts. However, intellectuals are lagging behind. They are writing obscure and empty philosophical works, which are totally unlike those produce by the masses. The reason for this lag is that intellectuals have not been participating fully in political movements and are separated from the masses. The article also recommends studying recommends studying Mao’s tracts On Practice, On Contradiction, on the Correct Handling of Contradictions Amongst the People, and Where Do Correct Ideas Come From? It extols philosophers to action: “Philosophers, get moving, put on your backpack, go to the grass roots, go to the great masses of workers peasants and soldiers, temper yourself into true Marxist philosophers”

At Play at the Time:

This editorial presages many Cultural Revolution critiques of intellectualism, and this sort of criticism would become more frequent and harsher as 1966 proceeded. Interestingly the start of the mass movement phase of the Cultural Revolution can be tied to the posting of Beijing University’ Philosophy Professor Nie Yuanzi’s big character poster in May 1966. It is difficult to tell what political camp this editorial originates in, as mentioned previously, revolutionary cadres as well as workers often resented the position of intellectuals within Chinese society and institutions of higher learning. Intellectuals had been targeted by the 1957 Anti-Righist campaign, which was orchestrated by Deng Xiaoping, and would be targeted again both by the party apparatus run work teams that entered campuses later in the year as well as by Rebel and Conservative Red Guards.

At Play at the Present

The articles that are recommended in this editorial are key to the understanding of Cultural Revolution era Mao Zedong thought and are worth a read for historians, interested parties, and activists.

January 14, 1966: Traversing Mountains to Deliver the Mail

Most of the January 14th issue of the People’s Daily was dominated by coverage of the Vietnam War and criticism of President Johnson’s “Great Society.”

Johnson fills in the foundation of the Great Society with dollar bills

Towards the back of the paper on page 5 of 6 is a letter sent by a postman in Heilongjiang. This postal worker had grown up in a commune in Shandong, and as he had received a few years of education had filled the relatively privileged role of bookkeeper in the commune. In 1959, following the call of the party to aid in socialist construction in the border regions, the young man left his home town in Shandong and emigrated to the North Eastern province Heilongjiang, where he became a postal worker, delivering letters, magazines, and newspapers. His postal route was very long and sparsely populated, and difficult. When he found his work too difficult, and his motivation lagging, he remember the Mao Zedong quote: “What is work? Work is struggle.” Difficult work would help to forge his revolutionary thought. After studying the Mao essays “For the People” and “In Memory of Dr. Norman Bethune” he realized that he had forgotten how the party had cultivated him, and that his thinking represented bourgeois individualistic characteristics. Through hard work and study of Mao Zedong thought he was able to greatly improve his postal work. The letter goes to lengths to the describe the trials and tribulations he had faced as a postal worker in Heilongjiang, and how the teaching of Mao Zedong thought had helped to successfully guide him.

At Play at the Time

While mirroring language of the Learn from Comrade Lei Feng movement, the content of the letter is significant because it presages the “Up to the Mountains down to the Country Side movement” which started two years later. After 1949 the Communist Party had occasionally launched campaigns to get young people to move from their home-places, often in cities, to the countryside, often emphasizing border regions that they wished to populate with Han Chinese for strategic and economic reasons, including to resolve food shortages in cities following the Great Leap Forward. This sort of story of the heroic youth who goes to live in the north eastern “wastelands” in service of the party, and tempers his revolutionary thought and will through hard work and study, was used as a model to recruit idealistic youth to move to the countryside. It pushes home the message that the best way to learn revolutionary thought is through practicing and studying Mao Zedong thought in real life.

Abbie adds: Postmen often provided key links in mountain areas with poor transportation infrastructure. The importance of creating links among mass struggles was later a key impetus to the red guard movement which promoted the importance of “Mass Linkups.”

The unique roll of the rural postman in China was  explored in the movie, Postmen in The Mountains (1999), set in the 1980s, exploring a generational and political transition between a father and son working as postmen:

 See: https://youtu.be/jPOy6Doq22w?list=PL2213EF009F81FF01&t=481

Johnson calls for “Peace” in Vietnam: January 12, 1966:

On January 12th 1966, President Johnson delivered his state of the union address that focused on the need to continue and intensify anti-communist measures in Vietnam. This speech was given in the middle of operation Crimp, which was at the time the largest allied military operation to date undertaken by the US and Australian militaries in South Vietnam.

In his speech, Johnson sought to justify the increase in American ground forces and spending, arguing that the expenditure was necessary to defend the people of Asia from Communist conquest. He argues that his policies were in line with the policies of past presidents, such as Truman’s American intervention in the Korean War, and Kennedy’s Bay of Pigs. He argued that the ultimate goal in Vietnam was to broker a peace deal. In reality this  would allow an unpopular military dictatorship to stay in power in South Vietnam.

On same day the People’s Daily published a critique of  Johnson’s offer of negotiations. Johnson holds a sparrow bearing an olive branch in one hand, and in his other arm supports an eagle/nuclear missile bearing the inscription “invasion and war.” The offers of peace negotiations were not what they seemed, Johnson was attempting to force the advance of US Imperialism through the threat and use of force.

Putting Forward one Hand first, But He Has another Hand

Additionally, in the same issue of the People’s daily there were another two articles on the struggle of Vietnamese people to resist American aggression.

At Play at the time:

The War in Vietnam was a constant backdrop to the unfolding politics of the Cultural Revolution. The PRC directed material support towards the Vietnamese Communist forces. As resistance to the Vietnam war started to heat up in the second half of the 1960’s, as a result of the anti-bureaucratic thought arising from the Cultural Revolution and the active role of the CCP in supporting the Vietnamese, many leftists in Europe the United States and Japan came to consider China the center of the global revolution, and Mao Zedong thought represented the theoretical summation of the most avant-garde revolutionary politics.


January 10, 1966: Fighting Speculation and Capitalist Influence

On January 10th 1966 the Central Committee of the Communist party approved and endorsed the Central administrative management office party organizations “Report on the current fight to oppose Capitalist influence and strengthen market management.” The report was widely distributed to party branches across the country. It focused on serious concerns about speculation and black market activities that were occurring during the new five year plan, it addressed the issue of market speculation and profiteering. It expresses concern with theft of resources from state owned enterprises for sale on the  black market. The party needed to: “Tightly control the market, make sure that agricultural products that are not allowed to be sold do not enter the market.” The party needed to do more to manage and restrict market activities. It blamed “capitalist influence” for the sneaking corruption and black market activities.

At play at the time:

A central debate within the party was the roll of the market economy under state socialism, between those in favor of a tightly controlled planned economy and a more market oriented economy. Market activity flowed and ebbed during the first 30 years of the PRC, hitting low points during periods of intense political activity, and sneaking back during low periods. in the 1960’s some amount of private market activity had been allowed to return after the disastrous results of the Great leap Forward left many parts of China in famine and destitute. This report was likely an action towards curbing those post GLF market activities. Noticeably the blame is placed upon the vague idea of capitalist influence, it is unclear if this refers to the influence of the old oppressing classes, or the emergence of new class powers within the PRC, specifically from a people within the party taking the capitalist road.

Learning from Dazhai, But are Politics in Command?: January 8, 1966

Study the Spirit of Dazhai, walk the Dazhai Road: Build the New Socialist Countryside

The number one article in January 8th 1966’s People’s Daily boasted of the improvement to production made by peasants in Wenjiang district, a rural district outside of Chengdu, in Sichuan province. This article furthered the contemporaneously dominant theme “of learning from Dazhai.” The reporter argues that political will can triumph over the material conditions of production. It does not matter if natural conditions of production are good or bad, it does not matter if land is high or low wielding, if Mao Zedong thought is used to improve revolutionary resolve production gains are possible. The peasants of Wenjiang do not rely on greater state investment, or depend upon fertilizer from the state. Instead they rely upon natural fertilizers, and self initiative. It also boasts that Wenjiang made the greatest contribution to srocialist construction of any county in Sichuan.

At play at the time:

The language of this article is similar to the language of the Great Leap Forward, including an encouragement for rural counties and districts to one up one another in terms of production and contributions to the state. However, this article notably does not make use of the term “Put Politics in Command.” The People’s Daily continued to promote model work units, and the idea of learning from Dazhai in agriculture and learning from Daqing in industry. The paper promoted a larger focus of using politics to improve production, and strays away from the critique of culture and societal and party organization that is seen in some other articles editorials and speeches that were increasing in number around this same time, including Mao’s ongoing campaign against Wu Han and the Historical Opera “Hai Rui dismissed from Office.”

January 6th 1966: Zhou Enlai on Secrecy.

January 6th 1966, Zhou Enlai gives an address on maintaining State Secrets, and appoints Peng Zhen as the head of a nationwide meeting on maintaining state secrets.

“In defense work, the party has always been particular about party committee leadership, the mass line, opposing top-down leadership, and mystification; The entire party must take care of public security work, the entire people must take care of public security, develop democracy, and smash minority leadership. The mechanism needs to safeguard secrets and be particular about doctrines. There needs to a system. But maintaining secrecy cannot be a process of mystification…” Zhou then goes on to lay down a list of strict rules for the party bureaucracy to maintain state secrets.

At the end of the address Zhou Enlai appointed Peng Zhen to chair a nationwide meeting on safeguarding state secrets.

See: 《周恩來年譜》1949—1976下卷,第1頁、第1頁。

The text of this address was originally found at the 50nianqian blog, which is doing a Chinese Language day-by-day recap of 50 years ago in Chinese history http://50nianqian.blogspot.tw/2016/01/196616.html

At play at the time:

This address points to the often contradictory role Zhou Enlai held as the second most powerful person in the PRC and CCP. Zhou often held up and supported Mao Zedong’s initiatives, and worked to oppose  soviet style revisionism, but also advocated maintaining an ordered society often opposed to struggle. In one breath Zhou both condemns top down leadership and lays down strict rules for the party bureaucracy to maintain state secrets. he then appointed Peng Zheng, a rival to Mao and one of the more top-down thinking party leader’s (see Peng Zhen Digs in Heels, Promotes Top-Down Model as “Maoist Thought,” December 23, 1965) Zhou’s own words bely the contradiction in his instructions “maintaining secrecy cannot be a process of mystification.”

January 4 1966: For the People

January 4th issue of the People’s Daily featured an editorial titled “For the People,” which emphasized self-reliance and voluntarism. The title of this editorial, and several lines in the editorial reference the CCP’s slogan and Mao’s famous 1944 essay “Serve the People.” An excerpt from the editorial captures the spirit of the editorial:

“We are Marxist-Leninists, we have always though that the masses should rely on themselves and liberate themselves, and have opposed any idea that we should do everything ourselves out of charity for the people. The revolution and construction both must rely on the masses, with self-reliance, everyone must pitch in. We stress that you must emphasize politics, strengthen ideological educational work, exactly in order to raise the masses’ consciousness, to make the masses recognize their own interest, to fight for their own leadership voluntarily and consciously under the leadership of the party.”

Study the Spirit of Dazhai. Walk the Dazhai Road. Build the new Socialist Countryside.

At play at the time:

This editorial can be read as an implicit criticism of people within the party who were not working “for the people.” It can be inferred from the editorials language that its intended audience was cadres, and not the entire general readership of the People’s Daily. By holding up the principles of working for the people, and relying upon the masses, the editorials writers were criticizing certain party members for doing exactly the opposite. The editorial’s writers felt that party members were not working “for the people” but instead in their own self interests, or in the interests of the party but without the consideration of the people. The author also implicitly criticizes commandism within the party, forcing the masses to act, instead of leading them to act in their own self-interest.


On Contradiction and on Practice in the Daqing oil fields: January 2nd 1966

The January 2nd issue of the People’s Daily ran two articles on the Daqing oil fields in North Eastern China. The articles both reference Mao’s foundational Yan’an period articles “On Contradiction” (1937) and “On Practice” (1937). Linked to these articles, the day’s semi-daily Mao Zedong quote was an excerpt from “On Practice”: “The knowledge which grasps the laws of the world, must be redirected to the practice of changing the world, must be applied anew in the practice of production, in the practice of revolutionary class struggle and revolutionary national struggle and in the practice of scientific experiment.”

The articles elucidate how the workers and cadres of Daqing had “learned and lived” Mao Zedong thought. After studying the two texts they had looked at the situation of Daqing. The workers decided that the two most important contradictions that they faced were American imperialism and revisionism, necessitating that they boost production and reorganize the work unit to defend China from imperialist advances and combat revisionism.

In order to adopt democratic methods and follow the mass line, The Daqing work unit implemented a tripartite management system made up of cadres, technicians, and workers. Following Mao’s principle of experimentation on the small scale before widespread implementation, they constructed an experimental unit. After hundreds of experiments they were able to obtain success, and implement new methods across the entire work unit


“Study the revolutionary spirit of Daqing, hold high the great red banner of Mao Zedong Thought, to struggle for the realization of the third Five Year Plan!,” April 1966. (http://chineseposters.net/posters/e13-664.php

At play at the time

The emphasis that January 2nd’s people’s Daily Places on “On Contradiction” and “On Practice” is significant. Today’s articles attempt to elucidate the how workers had “learned and lived” Mao Zedong thought.

Daqing was the first major oil field opened up in China in the 1960’s. In 1964 Daqing was elevated to the status of model work unit. Daqing was held up alongside the agricultural model Dazhai as examples of the success of Mao Zedong in execution. Mao was quoted as saying “Learn from Daqing in industry. Learn from Dazhai in agriculture.” This article signals to other work units to adopt these same methods of organization and study.

The tripartite model of management organization used in Daqing model was less top down and offered more worker control of the work unit than the prevailing labor organization model, which had been inherited from the pre-1949 society. This was sure to ruffle feathers among cadres and technicians.